Summary: None of us is immune to spiritual deception, and the Word is full of warnings about deception
You, Too Can Be Deceived
June 5, 2005
As a preacher, or really any kind of public speaker, you’re always thinking of a really good start for your message. That opening that will captivate your audience, and hopefully disarm them, and eventually begin to draw them in to listen with some attentiveness to the things you have to say.
What’s hard is finding something that actually relates to what you want to say. Through the years, I’ve found a lot of good stories, good humor, good quotes, to open a sermon, but it doesn’t always relate to what I want to say. This morning, I’ve found the perfect opener. And, believe it or not, it does actually have something to do with what I want to say. In fact, it relates very specifically to a portion of the message this morning, as you’ll see here shortly.
But for now, let me just read this verse of scripture, and let it soak in, impact you, grab your attention, and make you think. Here it is, ready?
"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that."
No doubt, many of you are thinking, well, what’s new. Every time Bill preaches, we put up with a little of his foolishness. This morning, and I hope at least more often than not in the past, it’s not simply foolishness, it’s not foolishness just for the sake of humor, or for foolishness’ sake...but foolishness with a purpose.
That was certainly Paul’s position, as he wrote this to the Corinthian church in 2 Cor chapter 11. Turn there in your Bibles with me, if you would, and let’s read this in context. Out of context, it’s kind of funny. In context, it’s deadly serious, as was Paul, as he wrote to this church that he helped found in Corinth.
2 Cor. 11:1-6, 10-15 I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. 2I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 5But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those "super-apostles." 6I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.
then jump down to verse 10:
10As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. 11Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Essentially, Paul had decided that he had to lower himself to the level of boasting, which he considered foolishness. He clearly did not do this for the purpose of building himself up, but he did it because he was forced to defend his credentials. He had to convince the Corinthians of his worthiness to be trusted, to be listened to. He had to compare his own ministry with that of the false apostles who had infected the Corinthian church with false doctrine. Inevitably, Paul knew, that speaking about himself like this would seem like foolish boasting.
But Paul was convinced he had to do this to gain a fair hearing. But, as we noted a moment ago, Paul resorted to this foolishness for a very clear purpose. The International Bible Commentary explains it this way:
Why Paul must boast: (think of it as if Paul were saying) If I go on to boast about myself, be patient with me (vs 1). It is only because I am driven to it by my concern for you (2) and my fear that unless I boast of my credentials you will lose, together with your respect for me, your respect for the gospel I preach (3). Yes, I do believe that if someone were to come with an utterly different gospel, you would accept him (4) I am entitled to boast, because I am in no way inferior to these “apostles” (5)...perhaps I am ineloquent, but I do at least know what I am talking about (6) The Corinthians have accepted the false apostles on the strength of their credentials, and since higher appeals have not been totally successful, Paul must appeal on this low level also.